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Thursday, 11 February 2016

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: The Virtue of Emulation

In my Amber game on Saturday, I'd been building along a long slow plotline involving an opponent to the Amberites, a shadowy organization operating throughout the Shadow-Earths. They had kidnapped Flora and one of the PC-Amberites (of a retired player), and the idea was that the players would have to work very hard to figure out what was going on and get to "Earth-0", this shadowy organization's home base.

But then, out of the fucking blue, Jong's character makes the Amber-equivalent of a Wish (walking to the center of the pattern and asking it to take you somewhere) that inadvertently ends up landing him beside the two captured Amberites, smack-dab in the middle of the Shadowy Organization's secret headquarters in their secret almost-impossible-to-get-to Earth-0!

Of course, this is the moment all my GM notes flew out the window.

So how does one deal with this situation?

I think that it is THESE situations which emphasize the importance of Emulation in the RPG game. If you are just running trough a scripted series of "encounters", then if a player does something unexpected all you can do is either stop the game till you can script something new, or railroad him back onto the scripted path. You could theoretically "improvise" and try to script a new path on the spot, and your mileage may vary depending on just how much of a genius you are.

With a game that is about Emulation, however, where you suppose that NPCs as much as PCs have their own identities and personalities, that you are emulating a living world, then the answer to this kind of dilemma is obvious: you just keep emulating the world and see what happens.

I knew what the Shadowy Organization's motives and interests were. I knew what the NPC prisoners' motives and interests were. I knew what Jong's Dad NPC (Benedict's) motives and interests were. And, I hope, Jong knew what his character's were.

And of course, a big deviation from the plot has a massive ripple effect, which if you're going by a script (and not near the end of the script) means you're screwed. But if you're going by Emulation, then you just keep emulating.

Long story short, btw, Jong and the captured NPCs got out. Jong's dad, Benedict (the greatest warrior in the multiverse) got in, and the session ended on a cliffhanger wondering if even the single greatest fighter in the universe could possibly take on an entire shadow full of power-armored super-powered magic-rich trump-wielding conjuration-item-laden broken-pattern-initiate high-tech high-magic psychic-powered mystery men.


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti half-volcano + Gawith's Winter Flake

(Originally posted May 14, 2009)

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Are Guns Cursed Items Possessed by Evil Spirits? The Left Seems to Think So.

First, if you haven't read my article on what worldwide statistics can really tell us about the gun control debate in the U.S., please go do so now!  It'll be worth it, trust the Pundit.

So in response to that, one of the more frequently leftist posters on theRPGsite made a perfectly genteel response, no calling me history's greatest monster or something like that, no regressive left bullshit for the most part, but one that showed just how out to lunch most leftists are. He fell back completely on chanting the standard leftist dogma on guns and repeating the same flawed assumptions, even though I'd just proved why they made no sense at all.

So here's what he said:
Objectively, it's really hard to compare gauge the effect of gun control laws, because violence rates are always different from place to place depending on a host of factors other than gun ownership. They also vary from year to year - and changes are different for different places. Like many people on both sides of the debate, Pundit selectively picks out some statistics that favor lack of gun control - while gun control advocates typically pick Australia or other places that implemented gun control after which violence reduced - which is correlation that isn't necessarily causation.

And my response is that there's a BIG difference: they use the stats to claim there is a causal link. I'm using the stats to point out proof there ISN'T.  If I was saying "these worldwide stats on gun violence prove that the less gun control you have the more safe a country is", then sure, you could accuse me of doing what they're doing.

But that's not what I did here. I used statistics on gun ownership and gun violence to show that having less gun ownership does not reduce the level of gun violence. I didn't try to show that correlation equals causation, I DISPROVED that very thing.

Then he says:

From my view, 
Within the U.S., I support closing loopholes for gun shows and private sales, waiting periods, gun registration (ideally national), locking laws, and buybacks of illegal guns. That's not part of some secret agenda to take away everyone's guns, but rather to enforce practice that most responsible gun owners do anyway. .

Why? How would ANY of these stop gun violence in the US? That's my point, there is no connection between rates of legal gun ownership and gun violence, and all you are listing above except MAYBE the very last one, would DO NOTHING to prevent gun deaths.

I'm not saying its some kind of secret government black-helicopter conspiracy, I'm just saying that all of these things are useless feel-good (well, feels good to the left) measure that ACCOMPLISH SWEET FUCK ALL.

In part, my reasons for this is that the assumptions are wrong that "criminals" are a monolithic entity who will do everything in their power to get illegal guns and kill. A lot of murders are not committed by hardened criminals fully intent on killing. Likewise, a lot of suicidal people aren't completely committed on dying, and may change their mind if it's too difficult or if delayed.

Seriously? For the most part, you are wrong on both counts. It is possible of course that the guy who would have shot his wife dead might just end up beating her to near-death with a baseball bat instead; or that there is some pussy out there with a merely passing suicidal tendency that decides to forget all about it forever when he realizes he'd have to go buy a bunch of sleeping pills at WalMart instead of just blow his brains out.

But guns have no secret evil Cursed power that makes people around them more susceptible to want to kill. Nyarlathotep isn't whispering inaudible encouragement through the gun in the house that will cause deaths that wouldn't otherwise occur. The gun companies have not used dark rites and channeled Memnoch to cause impoverished black urban youths to kill each other at horrific rates, they're doing it because they're impoverished, and in gangs, and the guns they're using are almost all ILLEGALLY OBTAINED anyways.

I think this is a big problem of the left; they want to imagine that guns themselves possess some sort of spirit of darkness that warp reality around them to cause harm that would otherwise never have existed. Which is, you know, batshit nuts.

But since you attribute it to a fetishized problem ("Guns have an evilness to them that takes over people and MAKES them kill") you look for fetishized solutions ("we must exorcise the gun with registration and magazine limits! Then the evil spirit will be contained!").  The problem is, none of these work.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Everyjoe Tuesday: Guns edition!

Today on, I look at what data on gun violence and gun control in other countries can teach us.

And what it teaches us is pretty clear: "more government regulation" will NOT solve the problem of gun violence in America.

As always, please share it, retweet it, +1 in, like it, talk about it to everyone, put it on your podcast, whatever!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Egg + Gawith's Navy Flake

Monday, 8 February 2016

Amusing Dark Albion Campaign Premise

You ever get those weird thoughts or inspirations that come out of nowhere?  Today while eating, I had a thought about Dark Albion, and what type of campaign setups I hadn't thought of yet.

I came up with one that was hilarious: a campaign where the PCs are all young adults in Cambridge or Oxford at the start of the Rose War period, mostly students of the Collegium or employees of the same.   It would be like a mix between every teen college drama ("Felicity, 1453"), harry potter (remember, in Dark Albion Ox-Cam are mainly known as Wizard schools), a horror movie ("Oh bother, we unleashed a demon during spring break!"), and one of those historical-drama 'salad days' depressing movies about young people in 1913 or the antebellum South, knowing that most of them are about to senselessly die in a terrible war.

("I just wanted to row for the college team but instead I had to go scheme to usurp the throne by intrigue and bloody battle from my best friend/ cousin/ nephew. Meanwhile Cornelius is worried about his potion-making mid-term, and is tempted to cheat by summoning Frobatos the Answerer")

By the way, if you haven't seen the documentary series "Britain's Bloody Crown", about the War of the Roses, be sure to check it out!  There have been a couple of moments where I disagreed with some of the historical analysis, but on the whole it's another great addition to coverage of a period that is becoming increasingly popular (thanks to Game of Thrones, I suppose).  The image I used above is from there.


Currently Smoking: Loreznetti Solitario Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Man vs Nature: How Common a Theme is it in Your Games?

In most of my rpg campaigns, I have to admit that "man vs. nature" has not been a strong or recurring theme.  The PCs are far more likely to be worried about goblins than landslides.

My recent Dark Albion campaign has been something of an exception to that.  

I've already mentioned the danger of rain conditions, which at first glance you'd think wouldn't be a danger at all (but that's precisely what makes it interesting).  Now, in last night's game, I had my players experiencing genuine fear of demise as two of the (heavily-armored) PCs suddenly fell into a sinkhole with a strong current, of the kind that I mentioned can be found in some of the waterways of the North in Albion.   It was only by a magic rope, some quick thinking, and the help of their team-mates that they survived the waters (which were also near-freezing).

I have to say it was quite fun seeing the PCs freak out over something with no supernatural element or human hostility.

In any case, the Dark Albion core book has some rules on potential natural hazards that you can run into along the way as you travel Albion's roads and trails.  And I think that's one way to look at natural conditions: as random encounter. Another is to see natural hazards as traps.

Do you do a lot of this in your D&D games?


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Solitario Volcano + H&H's Beverwyck

Saturday, 6 February 2016

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: The Real Problem With Players Controlling "Story"

The whole concept behind players getting to control story in RPGs, be it fully-blown Forge games, or in the use of "plot point" type mechanics where the Players can alter some aspect of reality to suit his purposes is that, aside from destroying the whole idea of emulation and a lot of immersion, the basic premise behind the reasoning for such mechanics is completely flawed.

That basic premise would be defined as something like "the game is more fun when I'm in control of what happens to my character"; or put another way "the game is more fun when I'm winning".

In RPGs, that's simply not the case. Being able to ensure, due to mechanics as much as due to whineyness, that your character will never lose is an incredibly boring predicament to find yourself in. It explains why Storygames are mostly all obsessive little micro-games that can only be played for one or two sessions. More than that and they outlive all use.

The moments when players are absolutely at their finest, and enjoying the game the most is not when they're winning, but when interesting things are happening to their characters. And that "interesting" almost always involves great conflicts, drama, and SUFFERING. Being able to wish away any negative results with a plot point or because the GM isn't allowed to say "no" according to the pseudo-intellectualoid game designer completely ruins that possibility of a PC suffering, and therefore evolving, and deepening as a character, and therefore bringing real entertainment to his player.

Its really rare for any player I know, barring a few really immature or boring ones, to go around bragging about how awesome their character was for winning really easily every time because nothing could stop him. All the good stories about awesome things usually involve terrible terrible things happening to a PC, complications and setbacks that were humorous, impressive, shocking, and the difficult process of overcoming them. You want "story", motherfucker? There's story. And saying "I wish that away with a plot point" or "i have narrative control now" is specifically losing out on what really creates great game.


(Originally Posted April 20, 2009)

Friday, 5 February 2016

Come to theRPGsite!

Hey there,  today I'm busy studying quite a lot of very obscure esoteric stuff about Tang Tantrism and the School of Mind and all sorts of other eastern mysticism/magick, so instead of a full blog entry, I'm just going to tell you: Come to theRPGsite!

If you want a place where you  have awesome discussion about RPGs where you won't be banned for liking the wrong game, where you won't have to wade through hundreds of pictures of cats or posts from your uncle about Trump, or any of the other pitfalls of most modern social media, a place where you can just talk about RPGs, theRPGsite is the place for you.

We have the best signal-to-noise ratio of ANY tabletop RPG forum.  We are the biggest free-speech forum. We do have a lot of threads about the OSR, but we have threads about a lot of other RPGs too, including a couple of hundred-page threads on Exalted, or other games I don't like much personally.  You can talk about Traveler, 7th Sea, Tekumel, GURPS, Champions, 5e, Gangbusters, Star Wars, pretty well every edition of old-school D&D, and those are all just examples taken from what's on the first page of the main forum right now!

So come on down, we welcome everyone (who wants to talk about RPGs).


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake